If the Brooklyn Nets trade James Harden, 76ers are favored destination

Lance Pugmire
USA TODAY Sports+

As Thursday’s NBA trade deadline nears, the leading topic is whether the Brooklyn Nets will decide to keep former MVP James Harden.

The Nets are laboring through an eight-game losing streak with leading scorer Kevin Durant sidelined by an MCL sprain and unvaccinated guard Kyrie Irving restricted from playing in New York. Harden, out with left hamstring tightness, missed four of those games. 

TRADE RUMORS: Nets reportedly open to potential James Harden-Ben Simmons swap

The trade intrigue is centered on the link Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Daryl Morey has with Harden after the pair co-existed so well with the Houston Rockets. 

Brooklyn Nets guards Kyrie Irving (11) and James Harden (13) talk during the fourth quarter of a loss against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Feb. 2, 2022.

Morey previously poured water on the idea of dealing for Harden, but talk and action often differ. As the 76ers (32-21) thrive while center Joel Embiid produces a career year, Philadelphia has a powerful (and discontent) bargaining chip in holdout guard Ben Simmons. 

Simmons is chafed over how he perceives he was treated/blamed for the 76ers’ second-round playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks, when he was woefully cautious and ineffective. 

BIG DECISION: How much pressure do the Sixers face to trade Ben Simmons?

A fresh start with Durant and Irving in Brooklyn would be appetizing, but Morey says he wants a significant haul in return, and Harden headed to free agency at season’s end is the rub. 

BetOnline.ag weighed the situation Monday and posted odds on the question of, “Will James Harden be traded before the deadline?” 

“No” is the -500 favorite and “yes” is +300. 

Despite the Eastern Conference there for the taking by a team willing to acquire a game-changer like Harden, who’s averaging 22 points, 10.2 assists and eight rebounds, the possible danger of subtracting both Simmons and Harden by the start of next season is a perilous course for Morey. 

Another team reportedly checked on Simmons’ availability, so Morey could opt to wait out this pressurized moment and land another front-line player at season’s end, when rosters are more frequently blown up. 

Then again, Philadelphia hasn’t won an NBA title since 1983, so if you’re not going to strike now, when will you? 

James Harden and Ben Simmons

That sentiment places the 76ers as the 1/3 favorite to land Harden, BetOnline reported. 

As if Morey needs any more incentive, the second choice to land Harden, 32, is the 76ers’ rival, Boston, at 3/1 followed by the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat (4/1) and the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers (5/1). 

The New York Knicks (6/1) and Toronto Raptors (8/1) follow after Harden helped the Nets reach Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals before losing to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.

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